Sunday, 30 August 2015

Best of 103 Hikes (5th Edition)

Earlier, I published a hit list of my top 10 "recommended ensemble" hikes.  In other words, a 10 pack of accessible great payoff hikes to give someone the greatest variety if they were going to do 10 and only 10 hikes near Vancouver (from 103 Hikes).

This list is probably is more what people who already hike here want to know: what were the 10 best hikes, full stop.  Ie. which were the best experiences and most worthwhile, painful logistics aside, as stand-alone hikes.

A theme for BC hikes I've found is that the best ones require getting further from the city and suffering a 4x4 road, some bushwacking, killer elevation or distance, or at least backpacking to stay overnight.  If the payoff can offset that,.. then it makes my top 10 list.

Here goes, in no particular order, these hikes stick out as the most satisfying for some reason:

This one is a bit of a cheater.  Technically, Elfin Lake's trail (also a 103  hike book destination) is the first, and last, quarter of this trip and many people think that is a good enough destination.  Because of the cabin, that can make this multi-day more enjoyable,.. or even doable as you could probably get up here after work,
Mamquam is 44km round trip but has an easy access road in the months you would do this but what makes it great is that it is just non-stop scenery (and the gradient is never high). It starts with the red heather meadows on the way to Elfin,.. then Elfin itself (scenic lakes, good camping or the cabin),.. then you hike to Opal Cone,.. glaciers and walking around an old caldera! THEN you keep going through a number of science fiction fantasy landscapes that remind me of Hawaii... then there is the lake for camping. It is just packed, and why I rank it up there.  PHOTOS

Access to this place sucks.  The road is sandy and needs a 4x4 and a good driver,. it is also very far from Vancouver,  Navigation for the first 10-15km is hard and the terrain challenging including a few stream crossings that you need to plan for. However, that is all erased as soon as you see where you arrive.. huge skies, massive glaciers and the feeling that all hiking youv'e done before was viewed through a port hole.  My eyes felt as if someone switched them from cropped frame camera to full frame (it almost blew my brain).  The scenery is awesome but you have to work to get to it. PHOTOS

This one actually is very convenient to access, a ready made trip that is a nice loop but does require camping.  PHOTOS
See my post HERE.

This one can be done in a day there and back (but why?). The trail isn't that exciting and is in fact grueling at times but the visual payoff,.. wow.  PHOTOS

This one is a long haul but there are choices regarding how to tackle it.  We camped at lower Pearce Lake and only took day packs to the top and back in the morning.  It is quite high and gives you a great 360 view of the Chilliwack area.  It is just something about the asthetic that makes this one worth checking out. PHOTOS

Most people call this hike "Anvil Island".  Is the trail great? No. Is the view amazing? Not bad (but it is unique). Is it worth all the begging for permission and extortion of the bible camp, plus the cost of the water taxi? Not really.
What sticks out for me is that every time I drive the Sea to Sky highways, I don't have to look at it anymore and wonder what it would be like to get tot he top.  Like the Lions, Anvil Island is such an icon of this area, it can drive someone like me insane not to hike it.  I enjoyed this adventure just due to the boat ride and the peak was satisfying, as was the approaching ridge.  The logistics? Not so much,  PHOTOS 

This one was an adventure and I doubt people would be able to repeat.  In fact, you aren't supposed to go through the pulp mill anymore or you'd be trespassing.
Knowing I had to bag the book we decided to deal with the lack of free ferry (that existed when the book was written) by kayaking in the calm evening. We were met with a security team telling us to turn back but it was too dangerous and we cut a deal.  That night we hiked, in the dark, to the cabin.
In the morning we woke to a scenic place we'd spend at least 1 more night.  We hiked toward Sedgewick in the alpine and returned in time to sit under cover on the porch and watch the reddest apocalyptic sky peppered with a lightning storm to end all storms, The next day, hiked out and paddled back to Squamish. It sticks out to me as an adventure to remember.  PHOTOS

Not unlike Mamquam,.. this one is a 3 stage rocket,.. what might be the ONLY payoff on other hikes is just one of many phases that aim to satisfy here.  We did it as a day hike, but camping at the meadows looks very appealing.  The problem with this one is the need for a 4x4, and a reputation for being muddy year round (for the first hour or so,.. not in the middle).  Great views, great alpine terrain. Do it.  PHOTOS

This was in my recommended ensemble list  HERE
Easy to get to by 2WD, all around satisfying overnighter.  No particular adventure story for me on this one, just a good solid destination,

I wrote about this one too HERE
This one is all about the view, it is just that much higher up that the ranges in the area. Being the highest in the book made it particularly satisfying to discover it was wasn't as much a killer chore as it was an amazing destination.  I had dreaded it, conquered it, and even enjoyed it.  PHOTOS

Also of note:
Mt. Steele - (a series of cabins on Sunshine Coast)
Helm Lake - (the only way to do Garibaldi)
Pinecone Lake - (a sleeper with amazing views)
Mt. Harvey - (the best of the HSCT)
Needle Peak - (get your Coquihalla fix)

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Worst Hikes in 103 Hikes 5th Edition

Far be it from me to be pushy about where someone else wants to go,.. but if you read this and choose to still go on one of these 10 hikes,.. all I can say is "you've been warned".

Because I hiked the 5th edition many years after it was published, I probably deserved a few crap hikes,.. trails don't last forever, especially in Southwestern BC where the access is often provisioned by some resource industry like logging or mining.

Logistics for sure influenced my experiences on these hikes, as did trail condition,.. but some,.. just suck without those considerations.  Thankfully almost all of these were removed for the next editions!

Do not do these hikes:


The West Coast Wilderness Committee does great work.  They bring attention to areas at risk, and save pristine stands of forest.  Sometimes they do this by building a trail for access.  The problem is after an area is saved, their job is done and the trail is never maintained again.  The Elaho Canyon is one such trial and the bridge is out so you cannot complete it end to end.  Even if you could, there are no views and the access road is very, very, long.  In early Wanderung, this trail was the destination for the callout that won the first "Worst Callout" award.  The organizer knew the road started in Squamish so labelled it a "Squamish hike" the fact is it starts North of Pemberton!


The name probably gives you a hint. It took me 2 attempts to bag this piece of crap.  Both soaking rain and bugs.  The road is washed out so I did some damage to my car and the 2nd time we
smartened up and brought mountain bikes to cover some of the distance.   Imagine the Grind with instead of stairs,.. a mud slope straight up.  At the top, granted, it started showing promise,.. at the turn around point!  Very overgrown, very hard to find the trail.  Oh ya, and we helped a crashed driver get back on the road only afterwards realizing he was probably drunk and we probably endangered Brackendale citizens for miles around.


Another WCWC fiasco. So overgrown I got stuck unable to move forward or back at one point and it took us an hour to move 200m.  Slide alder requires an extra several km of hiking, and only a sweet little truck got us there and had to shuttle people.   I see nothing redeeming about this trail, consider it decommissioned.  My shins are still scarred months later!


I don't know who this Hector Ferguson guy is, but I bet he is an asshole. His trail sucks and serves no purpose, and oddly, still in the 6th edition!  We biked part of it to save time but this one asks you to do a dangerous river crossing and the camp spot at the top,.. a mud pool. No views, long trail, why go?  I was crossing a log bridge that snapped and I was fully submerged for several seconds in 3 foot water with my pack pulling me under,.. fun times!


Sure, if Nicomen lake back to the highway are the tail end of your trip through the Heather Trail,.. I can see doing it.  The lake is nice, but my god this trial is endless,.. sheer monotony for 50km.


This is all forest, not real payoff except that I suppose you could spare yourself the hike down by just hiking to Cypress Bowl and hitching a ride.  In fact,.. do that.


Very long, very lame. 2 attempt to finish this and nothing redeeming about it, yet somehow still in the 6th edition. Oh wait,.. 1 good thing: views of the places you should have spent your 11 hours hiking in the Baker or Chillwack areas.


For me, this was the worst bugs I'd ever seen to this day... we ran eating lunch so they could't eat it first.  Mud, mud, and more mud - horrible drainage.  Just not sure why this remains in the 6th edition except maybe convenience being so close to Coquitlam?


History has never been so boring.  Yes, Hudson's Bay company stories permeate the very trees of this trail, but you can read about that at home.  Flat and all the highlights can be reached within a few km of HWY #3,.. so just do that end and check of the Rhodos and big trees,.. the hours to the other end you will never get back!


This one and the others near it on the Fraser Canyon are unique,.. uniquely pointless!  Its a long way
to drive for a bit of exercise.  One kicker experience is one of my hiking partners (my ex) found a tick burrowing into her flesh near her waistband!  We had to go to Chilliwack hospital :(

Saturday, 15 August 2015

10 Must-Do trails from 103 Hikes (5th Ed.)

Let's be clear, this list is not a list of the 10 best stand-alone hikes from the book,.. this is an ENSEMBLE of the 10 I believe everyone should do.  The audience I have in mind while writing this is one that I encounter often in Wanderung: someone new to the city or visiting that may not ever do hundreds of trails, but should at least not be subjected to doing 10 very similar ones due to lack of information.

In my last blog post I touched on the story of a guy that came to Vancouver and hiked 3 great trails,.. but they just happened to be right next to eachother with very similar views: boring.  Granted, this list will partially be excluding trails with horrid logistics, I think that this is the list that all local hikers should review and ensure they have at least knocked off these rites of passage, and visitors would get the most bang for their buck without too much repetition. I also wanted to create an array that will take people to several different areas.  In no particular order:


Locals will probably close their browser window right now but that is because we all take it for granted.  Lets recap what a great Vancouver treasure this place is. PHOTOS
  • 30 min from Vancouver and you've already gained a ton of elevation
  • Views of Vancouver itself
  • double header: hiking destination by summer, great snowshoe destination in Winter
  • great connections to other hikes and hot weather swimming holes

I have to include one from the Howe Sound Crest Trail set (Lions, Unnecessary, Brunswick), and Harvey is the best IMO due to more interesting stuff in behind, a view OF the Lions, and the ridge that extends out into the water view,.. it is the reason you see more photos from Harvey than the Lions (I'll touch on this in my "Hike this not that" blog entry). This trail can also be done on snow under the right conditions but I highly recommend fall, as the red foliage really adds to it. PHOTOS

Yes it is steep and not for everyone but the trail is actually not all that long. Trail access is basically pulling off the highway, and the payoff, wow.  The colour of that lake will be etched in your mind forever once you see it. If you are new to hiking and hit this place on the right day,.. you will be hooked so long as you are fit enough not to feel as if the trail was torture.  You can camp up there on tent pads (or in the cabin) also which I highly recommend. PHOTOS

The Coquihalla area deserves some attention.  This trail does have one challenging part that could deter some people but I'm not much of a scrambler and I got there. I suspect anyone getting to the top of Needle Peak will get the bug for the area.  People with the skills and know-how can also do this area in snow season.  PHOTOS

Using only a normal 2WD car you can gain admission to a highly under-rated area.  This one is up near Pemberton, moderately challenging, but has great lake and mountain views plus you can hop off to do some other interesting diversions.  I suggest doing this one at least as an overnight trip. PHOTOS

You have to do a Chillwack hike! You need a good 4WD and someone that knows how to drive it to navigate some hair raising obstacles and slope side roads,.. but once at the trailhead,.. this one is all payoff.  Catch it at the right time of the year and the wildflowers are insane.  The summit offers a unique view of the valley and mountains to the south. There is even this funky swimming hole that is perfectly round, PHOTOS

This one is technically not in Manning Park, but close.  No hike in the book has more elevation gain (1800m)and I actually felt the elevation slowing me down here, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I had expected. When I went we stayed overnight at a super scenic camp spot near a tarn, and did the summit the next morning. Very few people seem to go here but I have no idea why. It allows you to look down on all the ones in Manning. PHOTOS

I did this the first time when I was in scouts as a detour from the Heather trail. This one gets high marks because of the scenic, but dry, ridge walk to the peak and getting there puts you in the heart of wildflower country.  I feel this is best done as part of some sort of multi-day trip to Manning. PHOTOS

One of the few island peak hikes in the book and this one comes with the added "adventure points" of a nice ferry ride and a few decent pubs to hit for a full day excursion.  Gardner's trail is nice, and typical "coastal", but it is not alpine so it has quite a nice long season due to the low elevation (bonus!).  What you will remember most is the view of Vancouver from the helicopter/lunch pad.  No other hike will get you this unique angle and is the main reason why I have added it to my top 10 to recommend as part of the ensemble. PHOTOS

This Whistler based one has to be done over 2 days.  What I like about this one it that it is the perfect loop if done the right way: hike up singing pass, camp at scenic Russet Lake, hike the musical bumps, and then take the gondola down. Mind blowing views the entire way and never retracing your steps.  This loop might be one of my faves of the entire book (not just as part of the ensemble).  PHOTOS

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Lists of lists,...

When you are obsessed with something like peak bagging a book it is hard not to volunteer it. Afterall,.. what explains what you do with your free time all summer?  What are you going to talk about? Work?

Most people I know hike in some form or another so are generally curious even if they aren't part of my existing hiking community.  The question I often get is "I know that book, what is the best hike?". When you have 103+ adventures to draw from,. spanning 10 years, different groups of people and weather conditions,.. it is a bit of a tough question and highly subjective.

Some hikes from the 103 series I've done over a dozen times,.. but at least 50% only once. That is more a reflection of convenience than anything.  The "best" hike when you have only done 25% of the book changes frequently,.. and when talking to a novice hiker do you want to plant a seed that will send them on a 3 day trek where it might put them at risk?

That is why I want to compile a series of top 10 lists.  103 Hikes spans the most common trails of
the area so it is a good base to use for recommendations. However, for me, my top 10 experiences do not completely overlap with the top 10 destinations I'd suggest someone visiting from another place make their hitlist.  I recall a Wanderung subscriber from Isreal for 3 months doing the Lions, Mt. Harvey and Brunswick,.. those are basically the same hike, with very similar views (in fact you can walk from 1 to the next). This pained me. I can just see how that happened,.. he was at the summit and someone pointed to the next bump over and said "that is a great hike".  That person should have told him about Wedgemount lake, or Mt. Cheam. Hell, they could have given him a different view from Mt. Gardner.

I've decided to compile the following lists over the next few weeks:
  • Top 10 "ensemble" of hikes to do if new to hiking and want a good variety
  • My top 10 experiences (best hikes for me)
  • 10 hikes to never, ever, ever do.
  • "Hike this not that" - substitutions better tha the their more popular options
  • Backpacking best picks

Sunday, 9 August 2015

103rd Hike of the book: BAGGED!

As of the August long weekend 2015,.. I can now say that I've hiked all of the hikes in 103 Hikes 5th Edition!  The last one was the Lizzie Stein Divide, and as with many of hikes I went further than the defined turn-around point (in this case, all the way to the amazing cobalt waters of Tundra Lake).

A celebratory beer after bagging #103
This trip was not easy.  When the book was written, the logging road took you within a single round trip day hiking distance of the destination! We had to add a full day of extra hiking to each end of the trip and the terrain was horrible,.. it took us 5 days total to do what was defined as a 7 hour hike back in 2001!

Thankfully, my friend John hauled 6 tall cans up to celebrate unbeknownst to any of us (for the record, that is insane on a multi-day backpacking trip).
The long view of Caltha Lake

More photos can be found HERE.

Our campsite at Caltha Lake

John at Tundra Lake
I should qualify my earlier statement about bagging the book, there are exceptions.  The "rules" I had set out for myself were that I needed to complete each trail in entirety unless access was now forbidden, or unsafe.  The second part is a bit of a grey area since some did require scrambling and may not have been safe by any stretch.

In many cases I had to take multiple attempts to bag a trail. They were always the horrible ones: Mt. Amadis, Bug lake, Boise.  Going back a 2nd time was more than a chore.

In the cases where I couldn't bag it, I went as far as possible AND then hiked a substitution in the same area of equal or harder stats.  Those exceptions:

  • Elaho Canyon - the bridge is permanently out, but I went as far as possible and then did Locomotive in the Semaphore area of Pemberton.
  • Tricouni Meadows - I chickened out on the scramble at the top. I missed maybe the last 50 metres and in this case expect to go back.
  • Mt. Liddell - The Gambier Island Conservancy de-commissioned this trail and I want to honour that. Instead I did Mt. Killam which is the same stats and literally attached to Liddell.
When I think back to the over 150 adventures this journey took me on, I met so many great people (including some of my closest fiends and my wife!) and saw so much beauty that I cannot imagine time better spent. In 2013 when I hit some new and significant medical challenges, I wondered if I'd have to call it off,... I'm happy to say that it just didn't turn out to be the case. Thank you everyone that came with me for helping me tackle this extremely fun and rewarding goal!

What next? I'm not sure yet but first my body needs to recover from this one!